The Horror of Fang Rock

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The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby John on November 5th, 2009, 9:21 pm

When one considers that Terrance Dicks fifth contribution to Doctor Who was an eleventh hour script, shot entirely in a studio, and produced on a shoestring budget, it's nothing short of a miracle that Horror of Fang Rock is such an impressive production.

The plot -- the inspiration of which came from the 1912 Ballad of Flannan Isle is relatively straightforward, instead focusing on establishing mood, whilst using the interaction and emotions of the characters to drive the story. The siege storyline has been utilised many times in the shows history, but seldom to such great effect. Dicks very cleverly flips the concept on its head, and has the Doctor inadvertantly trapping the Rutan in the guise of Reuben in the lighthouse with them, though mercifully, the Rutan's disappointing true form remains hidden until the final episode.

The stories success is largely due to the skill of designer Paul Allen and director Paddy Russell, who must have had their work cut out in creating and shooting such a cramped set, but the results speak for themselves, the scenes in the lighthouse interior look convincingly cramped and lend the story a real sense of claustrophobia.

But no production can be complete without a top notch cast, and Horror of Fang Rock has just that. John Abbott and Colin Douglas are fantastic as Vince and Reuben respectively, and although Annette Wollett’s Adelaide is a bit tough on the ears, thankfully Leela, obligingly silences her hysteria with a good slap!
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby pattie anne on November 5th, 2009, 10:07 pm

Here is a copy of the Ballad of Flannan Isle if you have never read it. The fourth stanza from the bottom will be most familiar to us Dr Who fans. Enjoy!

Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)

Though three men dwell on Flannan Isle
To keep the lamp alight,
As we steer'd under the lee, we caught
No glimmer through the night!

A passing ship at dawn had brought
The news; and quickly we set sail,
To find out what strange thing might all
The keepers of the deep-sea light.

The winter day broke blue and bright,
With glancing sun and glancing spray,
As o'er the swell our boat made way,
As gallant as a gull in flight.

But, as we near'd the lonely Isle;
And look'd up at the naked height;
And saw the lighthouse towering white,
With blinded lantern, that all night
Had never shot a spark
Of comfort through the dark,
So ghastly in the cold sunlight
It seem'd, that we were struck the while
With wonder all too dread for words.

And, as into the tiny creek
We stole beneath the hanging crag,
We saw three queer, black, ugly birds--
Too big, by far, in my belief,
For guillemot or ****--
Like seamen sitting bold upright
Upon a half-tide reef:
But, as we near'd, they plunged from sight,
Without a sound, or spurt of white.

And still too mazed to speak,
We landed; and made fast the boat;
And climb'd the track in single file,
Each wishing he was safe afloat,
On any sea, however far,
So it be far from Flannan Isle:
And still we seem'd to climb, and climb,
As though we'd lost all count of time,
And so must climb for evermore.
Yet, all too soon, we reached the door--
The black, sun-blister'd lighthouse door,
That gaped for us ajar.

As, on the threshold, for a spell,
We paused, we seem'd to breathe the smell
Of limewash and of tar,
Familiar as our daily breath,
As though 'twere some strange scent of death:
And so, yet wondering, side by side,
We stood a moment, still tongue-tied:
And each with black foreboding eyed
The door, ere we should fling it wide,
To leave the sunlight for the gloom:
Till, plucking courage up, at last,
Hard on each other's heels we pass'd
Into the living-room.

Yet, as we crowded through the door,
We only saw a table, spread
For dinner, meat and cheese and bread;
But all untouch'd; and no one there:
As though, when they sat down to eat,
Ere they could even taste,
Alarm had come; and they in haste
Had risen and left the bread and meat:
For on the table-head a chair
Lay tumbled on the floor.
We listen'd; but we only heard
The feeble cheeping of a bird
That starved upon its perch:
And, listening still, without a word,
We set about our hopeless search.

We hunted high, we hunted low,
And soon ransack'd the empty house;
Then o'er the Island, to and fro,
We ranged, to listen and to look
In every cranny, cleft or nook
That might have hid a bird or mouse:
But, though we searched from shore to shore,
We found no sign in any place:
And soon again stood face to face
Before the gaping door:
And stole into the room once more
As frighten'd children steal.

Aye: though we hunted high and low,
And hunted everywhere,
Of the three men's fate we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
And an overtoppled chair.

And, as we listen'd in the gloom
Of that forsaken living-room--
O chill clutch on our breath--
We thought how ill-chance came to all
Who kept the Flannan Light:
And how the rock had been the death
Of many a likely lad:
How six had come to a sudden end
And three had gone stark mad:
And one whom we'd all known as friend
Had leapt from the lantern one still night,
And fallen dead by the lighthouse wall:
And long we thought
On the three we sought,
And of what might yet befall.

Like curs a glance has brought to heel,
We listen'd, flinching there:
And look'd, and look'd, on the untouch'd meal
And the overtoppled chair.

We seem'd to stand for an endless while,
Though still no word was said,
Three men alive on Flannan Isle,
Who thought on three men dead.
Last edited by pattie anne on December 6th, 2009, 10:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"And as for Tom Baker, well, I'll always be the Doctor,
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby Captain Rum on November 5th, 2009, 11:50 pm

It's one of my favourite stories from one of my favourtie writers....I love those stories when you feel enclosed and almost part of the story as you watch it and this is one of the best for it.
" laddie!"

"You damned courtiers to the Queen, you're nothing but lap dogs to a slip of a girl!"

Hope to meet a nautical cove or two online to chat about Tom, "Who", etc :-)
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby Ronald on December 3rd, 2009, 2:35 am

One of my favorite of Tom's stories. The tension between the rescued passengers, their demise, the crew of the lighthouse were fantastic. Even the Rutan looked awesome!

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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby Henners on December 4th, 2009, 10:14 pm

I have very vivid memories of this (must have been 3 or 4 at the time) - of this lighthouse- light flashing across the screen every now and again, of it being rather dark, and of loving every moment of the fear and fascination...

Sorry, but "they don't make 'em like they used to"
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby John on December 4th, 2009, 10:33 pm

No Henners...they don't. I couldn't agree more.

Welcome aboard by the way.
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby Henners on December 4th, 2009, 11:53 pm

Thanks :) was watching interviews with Tom on Youtube today - including one in a pub and a fine Francis Bacon story. Thought I should really pop in when I saw this forum existed
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby ivocaliban on December 10th, 2009, 10:38 pm

Ah, the beginning of a season, the end of an era! Horror of Fang Rock is my favourite story of Season 15 (actually it's my favourite story of Season 15-25). It has everything I love in a Doctor Who story and then some. Terrance Dicks knows more about Doctor Who than just about anyone else and his brilliant decision to include a Rutan is a small bit of inspired genius, I think. I don't buy any of the criticism on the appearance of the Rutan, either. Aliens that look like the Rutan Host and Erato (from The Creature from the Pit) are far more likely and convincing to me than the dozens of humanoid variations we've seen down through the years.

Horror is a classic story that was never quite matched in the years to follow (though Image of the Fendahl and State of Decay contain excellent echoes in terms of style). It ends what I think was one of the most brilliant consecutive runs of top-notch stories in Doctor Who.
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby blackhawkrush on December 26th, 2009, 3:17 am

I agree completely,John. When you consider that this story was a substitute for "State of Decay" and done on a short notice, it shows the greatness of the Tom Baker years. I have to say however, while listening to the audio commentary of "The Horrors of Fang Rock", the people involved (actors and producers) were less than impressed with the quality on the screen. I think they were too hard on themselves. :lol:
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Re: The Horror of Fang Rock

Postby Malcolm Orr on January 5th, 2010, 11:28 pm

Definately one of the best, and a powerhouse performance from Tom throughout. A very edgy Doctor, detached and at times bordering on unpleasant. A very brave interpretation of the role, pitch perfect delivery and just... mesmerising.
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